It takes a special kind of genius to figure out the quickest and most effective way to make something. Eleanor Burns is exactly that kind of genius.
I am not.
Eleanor has a show called Quilt in a Day. I -- when all goes according to plan -- will have a show called Think It Out, wherein I will walk viewers through the process of not using the internet, not using pattern books, and using the longest way around there is to make some everyday item. And everyone will love that show. Or they will say they love that show because everyone will know that if you watch Think It Out, you are obviously someone who likes to use your brain until it throbs right out of your skull. And everyone knows that's cool.
Let me give you a little sample of what I'm talking about.
I decided I wanted to make some (four) placemats as a gift for a friend's 40th birthday. In my shoes, Eleanor Burns would simply pull out her trusty placemat pattern and get to sewing. An hour later, she'd be finished and having a cocktail.
I looked through my fabrics and decided I'd like a motif in the middle of my mat -- a motif that I'd have to somehow extract from other designs in the (rather expensive Japanese) fabric. Fine. I know from watching my shows that that's called "fussy cutting", and those ladies do it all the time.
I eyeballed the space around the motif and cut it out, trying to leave as much of the surrounding fabric intact as possible.
Then, I pulled out a placemat that I own, traced around it for size onto a piece of tissue paper, and cut that out. I then proceeded to sketch a log cabin pattern on it by placing the cutout motif in the center, then just eyeballing the rest of it. I wanted the design to look somewhat irregular but not jacked up, so I figured this was the best way to achieve this. Then I measured.
Two things you should know here: (1) I did remember I needed to add 0.5 inches to each dimension for the seam allowances. Bullet dodged. Good one, me. I even made a spreadsheet with the correct measurements to make sure I wouldn't blow it later. (2) I have a very strange talent apparently, in that when I eyeball something, it happens to be exact measurements. I didn't really know that before, so that was weird to discover.
[Program note: I'm realizing Think It Out may not be able to cover one project per show. This might present a challenge in selling it to the networks. But whatevs.]
Let's skip ahead:
On different tissue paper, I made a pattern for each strip. For directional fabric, I marked the pattern with orienting lines. (Oh, I tried figuring it out without those lines first. Yeah. Because I'm thinking here! Right.)
Eleanor isn't scared by directional fabric. I am. But that didn't stop me from using it, and using it in the most difficult way possible.
There were SO many steps in here, it was ridiculous. I'll spare you and just tell you that here's what I've got so far:
The outer white edge is batting, not part of the top. (The photos are bad today because of weather that includes much-needed rain here in SoCal.)
OK. Now. I think on my show there's going to be a section where I ask the audience for advice. But only after I'm very much committed and possibly in over my head.
So that's this part here, and it involves the finishing of these mats. Ready? OK.
I was planning on machine-quilting these, you know, so they're like little quilts.
(1) Is cotton batting ok for the middle layer, or should I use interfacing or something else instead?
(2) Can I stitch in the ditch, or will that look bad/dumb/annoying? Can I use off-white thread?
(3) Should I make a binding to go around the edge, or should I just take another fabric for the back, sew right sides together, and turn it inside out -- no binding?
(4) Have I made a terrible mistake?
I thank you for your input and kind consideration in this matter.